I will judge a book by its cover and I will not be made ashamed thank you very much. As much as we all love a good rant, here I will talk about book covers that I think are particularly good and why they’re good. As with almost everything on this blog there will be a good deal of spoilers in these posts as good covers will always tell us something about the book they’re advertising. In the end, covers are advertising and if you don’t have a good cover it’ll be harder, but not impossible, to sell people on your book. Alright let’s get to it.
The first time I ever read Tha Handmaid’s Tale, I was in 7th grade (I know I started young) and I didn’t quite understand the symbolism and what everything meant. I learned that when I read it for the second time when I was in my early 20s. Anyway, the first cover was of this one:
Since then, I’ve seen many different editions and covers for the Handmaid’s Tale, but my favorite would definitely have to be this one below:
I can’t remember exactly where I first saw this cover but I immediately fell in love with it. To start out with, I think the style fits perfectly with the book. The style is a little hard to describe, but I think it’s the feeling it communicates that matters the most. First of all, different parts of this person’s body (we know it’s someone who can have children because they’re wearing red) are at different points of definition, which gives the impression of uncertainty. I would say uncertainty, and controlling that uncertainty is one of the main themes in THT. In simpler terms, this translates to the lack of trust anyone is able to have in the Republic of Gilead. Handmaids, Marthas, and Wives can’t trust each other, and they can’t trust anyone in their own group. This is how the Republic of Gilead thrives: by being able to isolate everyone and leave them in uncertainty. If you’re interested in reading more of my thoughts on The Handmaid’s Tale my full review on the book and the themes can be found here!
I think the part of this cover I’m most intrigued by is the flowers and drawn over the handmaid. This is excellent imagery because it automatically makes the person think of a garden, or growth, which if nothing else, applies to children. Children are some of the most obvious evidence of growth in the world because of how fast they grow. With this imagery, it automatically assigns the role of “the grower” or “the gardener” to the Handmaid’s. Which, in the Republic of Gilead, is really all they are.
Because of the flowers, I also immediately thought of Eve in the garden and the role she’s often assigned. In Genesis, Eve isn’t portrayed as having agency. She has no included lines or involvement in the story (other than the whole snake thing). She is essential because she is how Adam and Eve will multiply and replenish the earth. But Eve is often reduced to just that. Someone who can help Adam have children. I think sometimes it’s hard to think of Eve as someone we can identify with because she has such little involvement in the story. This doesn’t apply perfectly to Offred because I think she’s incredibly relatable, but she is a very passive character in this book. She has few lines and doesn’t impact the story at all until the very end. Considering the heavy Christian themes in the Republic of Gilead, I’d saying including images that remind of Eve was an excellent choice on the designers part.
I think the symbolism of the wall is rather obvious, so I’m not going to explain it. But it’s just such a simple detail that adds so much.
What do you think? What symbolism do you see in this cover? What’s your favorite The Handmaid’s Tale cover/edition? Tune in next week for another cover assesment!